Eddie Guardado was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame Friday night, and his career serves as an excellent lesson on numerous levels. What lessons might they be, exactly?
1) My dad cannot pronounce a name if it has more than 2 syllables. If Eddie’s give name was Eduardo, he would have been in a lot of trouble.
2) Anyone can be a closer. Guardado was an abomination of a starter. He was a middling mid reliever. The first year he really worked as a closer, he split time with LaTroy Hawkins and Bob Wells, and eventually eased into the role full time in 2002. He didn’t do anything before 2000 or really during 2000 to make himself stand out as a good closer, unless the logic was “He is weird, and perhaps he should spend less time on the mound”. Still, he was the full time closer in 2002-03 and amassed 90 saves in those two years.
3) It’s better to be lucky than good. Oh, in that first year where he closed, he had a FIP in the 5’s and a negative WAR. He wasn’t just a bad closer, he was a bad pitcher. In 2001, Hawkins amassed the most saves on the Twins, and if you combine the total team saves, it turned out that the Twins had about as many as Guardado would by himself the next two seasons. So Guardado ended up in a plum situation, consolidating a silly stat into his record books, translating an absurd strand rate and a ton of flyballs (especially for a reliever) into a reputation of being reliable. (For what it’s worth, I NEVER felt comfortable with Guardado on the mound, not as comfortable as when Joe Nathan was out there, anyway). Joe Nathan was better than Guardado and did it for longer, and Glen Perkins, though fairly new to the role, has been much better than Guardado. Hell, even Jared Burton, depending on what you are looking at, could be better than Guardado.
4) Guys who get saves have inflated value. It may not sound like much now (Ok, so it does), but Guardado signed for three years and 16 million dollars with the Mariners. Could you imagine the haul the Twins would have pulled back if they were, say, out of contention in 2002 and moved him for prospects? I mean, Ugueth Urbina was traded to the Marlins for a package that included Adrian Gonzalez! And Urbina was about the same as Eddie Guardado. Maybe slightly worse. And he only had one good year.
5) We all would have been upset about it if Guardado had been dealt. Even if Eddie hadn’t achieved success on the field, spurious thought it may have been, he still would have been one of the most well liked people on the team for his sense of humor, effort and work ethic. It’s that ethos that helped define the Twins over the past decade and a half. Eddie was popular with the teams for off the field reasons just as much as for his performance on the field. If he had been inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame just for being an awesome guy, it would have been totally justified.